The Durga Identity

If you believe the old adage that 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,' then you'd better be on your best behavior when you meet the Durga woman. Crushing the male ego and scattering the pieces is her specialty.

According to ancient yoga philosophy, Durga is the goddess whose specialty is the dismantling of the male ego. Given the opportunity, most of us would prefer to avoid meeting the Durga woman face to face. She is typically associated with the parts of the feminine psyche that we would prefer to avoid or not deal with directly, both personally and universally. Though she can be frightening and intimidating, she brings about needed change and evolution in an ego-driven society through the process of intimidation, destruction and sometimes, complete devastation. She represents the shadow side of the feminine nature as well as its virtues and good qualities.

With the Durga Identity, the tension of the opposites is fully expressed. On the one hand, she is very beautiful and on the other, absolutely terrifying. She can be kind and loving when it suits her but frightful and intimidating when challenged. She is usually gentle but will use force when the occasion warrants. Though normally courteous and submissive, try crossing her and watch the fire of aggression pour from her eyes. This loving mother will transform into a fierce warrior when attacked. The gentle Durga nurturer will turn killer in a heartbeat. This then, is the Durga Identity. A woman who truly possesses the Durga Identity is comfortably at peace with her power and never desperate to prove herself.

Durga’s mission is to expose the darker and more destructive elements of our nature so that they may be healed and transformed. It will then be possible to integrate them into our beings in a more productive manner. This will enable us to reach a deeper level of creativity, self-expression and wholeness. These darker or repressed elements are fuelled by our feelings of wounding, mistrust, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, insufficiency, inadequacy, criticism, anger, revenge, greed, diffidence and loss of identity. If these darker elements are not acknowledged, healed and assimilated, they can lead to self-undoing, the destruction of others, a life of dissipation and chaos, and ultimately, death.

The name durga means one who is difficult to approach or to know, one who is beyond reach. It also means ‘fort,’ or that which is impenetrable. Being the personification of universal power, she is naturally difficult to approach or to fully comprehend. Though she is easily pacified, she is also easily angered. So one must approach with caution.

When you meet a Durga woman face to face, you will soon realize that her incomparable beauty is a match for her uncompromising will. She is the woman warrior with virginal autonomy. She is one unto herself, belonging to no man. As the virgin archetype, the Durga persona’s powers are not dependent upon her relationship with a husband or companion. The more oppressive men become toward women, the more women embrace and treasure their virginity or autonomy, or they seek the love and understanding of other women or they embrace other women as companions and lovers. These options are essentially a defense against men. In the most extreme cases, women will reject womanhood itself and take on characteristic or exaggerated male appearance and behaviors. But this reflects the Durga Identity in a state of imbalance.

More and more, in our world’s current climate, people are swinging all the way over to their polar or gender opposite, either in their behavior and sexual identity or in their embrace of a homosexual or bisexual lover or partner. In many cases, it is an honest effort to find a clearer and truer self-identity and a more liberated self-expression. But does this produce the desired result? Oftentimes, we find people in greater states of confusion about their identity and vexation with regard to their gender and sexual expression. Men have been busy trying to dominate women (and Mother Nature) for centuries. Now the backlash has finally and at long last arrived. Many women don’t trust men. They have lost their respect for men as a gender and they vow never again to fall under their control and manipulation. These are reasonable and justifiable conclusions that have precipitated women’s newfound autonomy.

As with anything here in the material world, when we move away from one extreme or polar opposite, in this case, male dominance and manipulation, the tendency is to move to the other extreme, which is exaggerated disdain and mistrust for the male of the species. Not that it isn’t deserved, but such an opposing polar position does not reflect balance but a totally opposite state of imbalance. In other words, it doesn’t actually solve the problem but it is nonetheless a step in the right direction. Always and in every circumstance, we find a state of balance located somewhere in the middle, in the center of the polar opposites.

We now have a very high percentage of lesbian women and gay men in our world, arguably the greatest number since the Renaissance. This also reflects an endeavor to bring our own selves into balance spiritually in terms of the inner male within women and the inner female within men. But of course, we humans initially tend to go overboard in whatever we do, particularly if we are trying to prove something, justify something or prove ourselves to be right.

The Durga Identity represents women who do not require men in their lives, who choose not to be dependent upon men, who no longer want to be manipulated or mistreated by men or who are essentially fed up with men. We also find the Durga Identity expressed in women who have no axe to grind with men but who choose to act as independent, autonomous individuals. But it should be pointed out that although Durga is a most fierce and devastating warrior, at the same time she maintains her feminine appearance, manner and demeanor. She does not take on male affectations or postures. She is not rife with testosterone. Nor is she a muscle-bound, buffed-out bodybuilder. Nor must she let all the hairy places on her body grow with reckless abandon as a testament to her liberated state. Legitimately, women have a right to their independence and sovereignty and that is what the Durga Identity essentially embodies but without the need to prove herself or to justify her existence. She just is who she is because that’s who she is.

Though possessed of many good qualities, the Durga woman is at the same time terrible, wrathful and vengeful. When pleased, she can become an ever-deepening well of good fortune. When displeased, she can destroy all we love and possess as exemplified by acrimonious divorce settlements. Durga rides upon a fierce tiger, which represents her power and nobility on the one hand, and on the other, it symbolizes the need to keep one's animal instincts under control or they may lead to one’s undoing and destruction.

According to Vedic mythology, the great goddess, Durga, was brought into being in order to destroy various male rogues and demons that were wreaking havoc throughout the universe. These various upstarts who were destroyed by Durga represent persons or qualities driven by ego, exploitation and sensual indulgence. They will stop at nothing to have their desires met. When a woman embodies the Durga Identity, she sets out to defeat and destroy the male ego or actions born out of ego perpetrated by men and even women. Those who are bound by the ego believe that they are the center of the universe and that everything revolves around their needs, their desires and their priorities. Generally, this is truer for men than women but it is equally true for women who are blindly driven by their own male ego. The ego seeks to organize and prioritize everything and everybody around itself, just as the sun is the center of the galaxy and every other planet revolves around it. Those bound by the chains of ego act out of pride, arrogance and false prestige. They believe that their own gratification is the prime goal of life. The fire of their unbridled longing increases, being fuelled by a thousand coals of conflicting desires. When their desires are not fulfilled, frustration sets in which, in time, transforms into anger, resentment and vengeance. When inflated way out of control, ego-driven people may eventually become envious of God Himself/Herself, which results in atheism or nihilism. Remember, an acronym for E.G.O. is Edging God Out.

With regard to relationships between men and women, it is commonly understood among women that in relationship they are required to give the lion’s share and to make the greatest sacrifices and compromises, which indeed, most women do. What’s astonishing is that the majority of men are not even aware of this simple fact. Rare is the man who gives equally in relationship and rarer still the man who actually gives more than his female counterpart. A woman carrying the Durga Identity is prepared to give nothing and to take everything in her vocation to crush the male ego and its false sense of dominance and superiority.

Durga employs a variety of means, such as tactfulness, diplomacy, strategy, direct action and force, and various manifestations of these means to annihilate such self-serving rogues.

Durga is a tremendous power, poised and ready for the grim battle required to wipe out the demoniac forces whose exaggerated egotism is destroying the balance of power in the universe, and whose sole purpose is to dominate and control. It is the universal battle between knowledge and ignorance, truth and falsehood, the oppressor and the oppressed. According to the Bhagavad-Gita, the three gates leading to hell or a lower state of existence or consciousness are unbridled lust, greed and anger. These are also the qualities that are characteristic of the development of a demoniac or destructive nature. These lead to death and ultimately to rebirth but not necessarily in another human body. It may mean rebirth in a lower species. So Durga is also fighting the battle against these darker qualities and the promotion of such qualities on our planet and within our society. Women who dedicate themselves to such a battle against these forces of darkness are indeed embracing the Durga Identity.

The Vedic texts tell us that during one historical battle, the world shook and the seas trembled as goddess Durga engaged the great demon, Maheesh, and his hosts in a fierce encounter, creating her own female battalions from her exhaled sighs. When the battle was over, Durga had destroyed the demon's army, symbolic of male, disruptive aggression.

Male aggression is driven and fueled by the power principle, which strives for an accumulation of power and resources in the form of land, status or wealth, and a position of power over others. Male aggression is fed by the need for competition and goal attainment, that is, winning. From the time a child becomes a boy scout, all the way through his service in the military, he is awarded a series of badges, stars, certificates and ribbons to signify to himself and others that he has done well, and that he has done something that the next guy couldn’t or didn’t do. This serves to fuel the notion and the belief that ‘I’m better or more accomplished than you.’ Male aggression does not seek harmony but victory or conquest.

From the time I was a child I remember repeatedly hearing the phrase, “in man’s endless quest to conquer nature.” How foolish and futile this notion is. When has man and when will he ever conquer nature? He erected a big dam and harnessed a river or two! How impressive! But as of this writing he has yet to harness or prevent an earthquake, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, a forest fire or a flood. When this happens, I’m sure many of us may be willing to worship at the shrine. Until then …

How can you ever act in harmony with something or someone you are trying to conquer or subdue? Although Durga is specifically a warrior goddess, she is herself never driven by male aggression or a need to win. She is motivated by justice and her sense of mission. And when she has completed her mission and is victorious, she quietly withdraws without any spoils, hoopla, fanfare or badges.

Enraged by his defeat, Maheesh took the form of a buffalo to overcome the irrepressible Durga. Each time she slew the buffalo demon, he transformed himself into a new and more ferocious shape. Then with the strength of her limitless spiritual energy, the goddess severed the demon's head from the body of the buffalo. The gods in charge of universal affairs praised Durga with their full gratitude.

On another occasion, the gods once again approached Durga when they were overpowered by formidable demons. Goddess Durga stationed herself on top of a Himalayan mountain. Servants of the powerful demon brothers, Shoomb and Nishoomb, came upon the bewitchingly beautiful goddess. They returned to their masters and told them of the enchanting woman shedding radiance in all directions from the top of a high mountain. Never before had they seen such beauty. They encouraged Shoomb and Nishoomb to take possession of her saying that she would be the crown jewel of their kingdom.

A messenger was sent to tell her that if she agreed to marry Shoomb and Nishoomb, wealth beyond compare would be hers.

Durga told the messenger, "Shoomb and Nishoomb are indeed the sovereigns of the three worlds — heaven, human, and hell. But being young and naive, I have made myself a foolish promise, that he who would conquer me in battle, who would purge my pride, shall alone be my husband. So let either or both come to me now and vanquish me. Then I shall willingly give them my hand in marriage."

This is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ Only, in Durga’s case, this particular shrew cannot be tamed but is actually the shrew who does the taming. Men find this sort of challenge irresistible. I once knew a man who fell in love with a beautiful but very fiery, intense and independent woman and moved her into his house. In many ways, she exhibited the Durga Identity. He erroneously believed that he would be able to tame her or change her wild ways by virtue of his personality, his nature, his strength of will and his love for her. However, it is very difficult if not impossible to change another’s fundamental nature. Further, he was so dazzled by her beauty that when he walked around with her on his arm it appeared as if she were the hood ornament on his expensive automobile. In other words, he was seeing only what he wanted to see and of course, in some significant way, he was disregarding her essence. When he actually tried to tame this shrew and alter her nature and behavior, all hell broke loose and he ended up throwing her out, physically. In this regard, he himself behaved in a very uncharacteristic manner. This left them both hurt, confused and alienated. Who changed whom? One does not tame the Durga Identity as we shall see.

The messenger accused Durga of being haughty and proud. He warned her that there was no man in the entire universe that could withstand the wrath of the demons, Shoomb and Nishoomb. How then could a mere woman like her stand against them? He advised her to go willingly with her dignity intact. Otherwise, she would be dragged by the hair!

Durga confirmed, "It is true that they are both very strong. But what can I do? I cannot go against my vow, mindless and foolish though it may be."

I think one of life’s little pleasures is watching a really intelligent and perceptive woman play at being stupid or naive in order to accommodate some self-important guy’s need to spray testosterone here and there and establish his territory and superiority over the little lady. Of course, Durga is a master at this game.

Fate took its course and when the demons came to drag Durga by the hair, she instantly burned them to ashes with a few words, otherwise known as mantras. Her tiger then destroyed their armies as she looked on passively.

In many respects, the Durga Identity acts contrary to what is normally regarded as ideal or suitable for a woman. She does not act in an acquiescent capacity nor does she subordinate herself to a man or male authority. She seems to have no interest in traditional household duties and in actuality, distinguishes herself in a customary male role as a warrior on the battlefield. Further, she can easily hold her own in battle against any male opponent which makes her clearly and appreciably an outcast with regard to any traditional female role. She therefore transcends the acceptable role for a woman in everyday society.

It is obvious that the Durga Identity is on the rise in our modern world with the induction of more and more women into military service in combat roles, especially here in the U.S. We now have women piloting jet fighters and bomber planes. It used to be that women who pursued professional sports aspired to he tennis players. Now they aspire to be boxers and pugilists. Instead of dressing themselves in the latest fashions, Muslim women are wrapping themselves in explosives and popping the detonator in public places. These are clearly not traditional female roles and are indicative of the shadow principle of the feminine energy as embodied by the Durga Identity rising in our consciousness and subsequently, in the physical world.

Traditionally, in Vedic society, women were meant to be protected and looked after, not deliberately thrown in harm’s way. There is not much objection to women in combat at this stage because enough of them haven’t returned in body bags. When mothers are shipped home to their young children as corpses, it will be interesting to see just how acceptable women in combat is to the psyche of the nation.

Another thing worth mentioning is that our world and our universe are always under the control of a higher, divine power. Though it may sometimes appear to the contrary, we are not ultimately subject to the whim of political dictators or military megalomaniacs or folly’s fools. Even their vast armies, military might and nuclear weapons are no match for the power of nature and the universal forces. What happens when these power-drunk tyrants gain too much power or get out of hand? The gods dispatch their invincible representatives, such as Durga or someone like her to level the playing field and once again, remove the burden of the testosterone-driven male ego from the earth.